Finding Demographic Data: Women’s & Gender Studies

Finding demographic information can be tricky – luckily, there are a few projects that make it a little easier. When looking for data about women and gender (broad topics!), let’s take a look at some of the options for how to search. 

International Data & Statistics on Gender

The World Bank offers The Little Data Book on Gender, an up-to-date look at demographic trends – “sex-disaggregated data for more than 200 economies in an easy country-by-country reference.” If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can download data sets in bulk, or search by various educational and economic indicators relating to quality of life and economic/political access: “Women who own a house both alone and jointly,” “Women participating in decision of visits to family, relatives, friends,” etc. Tables help to make sense of the data (updated four times a year), as well as this short introductory video

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is similarly “an intergovernmental economic organisation,” whose GenderIndex attempts to provide “a cross-country measure of discrimination against women in social institutions.” You can export data as an Excel file, limiting by country, income, wealth, and many additional factors. Another massive search tool is ICPSR, which searches through international surveys and research (be sure to limit your search by keyword or theme). 

If you’d like this information digested a bit for you, check out the irreplaceable Women’s Atlas (2018) by feminist geographer Joni Seager. With colorful graphics and precise layout, any of the available editions will be a handy companion on your bookshelf for years to come. 

Women in the United States: Demographic Data 

In terms of data on women in the United States, there are innumerable ways to approach the topic – by time period, age, theme, location, and many other demographic indicators. Often, nonprofit groups analyze existing data for further distribution and interpretation:  The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, for example, bases their reports on Census Bureau and government-funded surveys; Women’s Peace and Security Index is compiled by Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace, and Security. 

Of course, the specific topic will help to guide your search; the CDC, Data.gov, and other governmental entities can be useful, as well as smaller studies. And speaking of specificity, zooming in on distinct groups can be especially tricky, dependent on how a study was conducted, terminology, outreach, and other factors. For only one example, questions about gender identity were almost entirely left out of demographics until recently; in 2015, the largest survey of data about transgender people was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality. Another example is the construction of categories regarding race/ethnicity over time, reflecting many cultural changes and representation; the Census offers a useful chart, breaking down these categories from 1970 to the present. 

Feel free to be in touch as you navigate your research journey; we’re happy to help out.

About the Author

Elvis Bakaitis is the Interim Head of Reference at the Mina Rees Library.